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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for December, 2009

Ice on the Hudson

December
30

Nothing much yet in our area, except for a few chunks floating up and down the Hudson River. The first photo shows a barge just about to pass Storm King Mountain this morning. There were a few floes there on the river. I took the photo from Little Stony Point in Cold Spring.

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The second photo is from Christmas Day up in Hudson in Columbia County. There and then (and, I’m imagining, still), the river was packed with ice. The photo shows the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
| | 127 Comments »

Blue moon

December
28

The month’s second full moon will be in the sky Thursday, giving December the first blue moon since June 2007.

As you may know, a blue moon commonly refers to the second full moon in a month and this is the first one on New Year’s Eve since 1990.

“The most common explanation, accepted by both NASA and the American Heritage Dictionary, defines a blue moon as two full moons in a single month – a phenomenon that occurs every 2.5 years on average. This month, the big round orb appears on Dec. 2 and Dec. 31, making this the first blue moon on New Year’s Eve since 1990.”

But, as the above link points out, there’s some discrepancy over the definition.

“Normally, you get 12 full moons a year. A blue moon means a 13th full moon – or the third full moon in any particular season that includes four. Naming the third moon blue, rather than the fourth, would help keep the farmers from getting their seasons out of whack. September, for example, brings what is sometimes called the corn moon.”

And, for those who need them: “Top 10 Amazing Moon Facts.”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, December 28th, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
| | 265 Comments »

Scenic Hudson’s new board members

December
28

Scenic Hudson Names New Board Members

HUDSON VALLEY – Scenic Hudson has named two investment professionals and a professor of international economic law to its board of directors. It also has named a fine art dealer and a lawyer to the board of directors for its land trust. These experienced experts will help Scenic Hudson create environmentally and economically vibrant Hudson Riverfront communities.

Frank Martucci of Irvington, Westchester County, and Ancramdale, Columbia County—Scenic Hudson Board of Directors
Mr. Martucci is president of Millcross Fund Management, Inc., a private investment company. A former senior managing director at Bear Sterns and Co., he has been actively involved with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Montclair Art Museum. Mr. Martucci also has served on the national board of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Academy of Design, the Montclair Art Museum and William Penn College, his alma mater. He is the former chair of the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

With his wife, Katherine, Mr. Martucci is a collector of 19th-century American art. They have had a long and deep interest in the work of George Inness, a renowned artist of the Hudson River School who is often cited as the “father of American landscape painting.” Financial support from the Martuccis, who live in Irvington, Westchester County, and have a farm in Ancramdale, Columbia County, created the George Inness Gallery at the Montclair Art Museum, the Frank and Katherine Martucci Endowment for the Arts, and a major catalogue raisonné of George Inness by Michael Quick.

Mr. Martucci served previously as a Scenic Hudson board member and was a leader of the group’s campaign to defeat a massive, coal-burning cement plant proposed for Columbia County. In accordance with a term-limit policy, he rotated off the board before being eligible to serve again. In addition, he is a member of the Scenic Hudson Land Trust Board of Directors.

“Having someone of Frank Martucci’s business acumen and passion for the valley’s unique beauty as a board member adds great strength to Scenic Hudson’s work. A believer in the powerful intersection of spirituality and the environment, he brings a keen perspective to our work to preserve the valley’s iconic landscapes and create parks that connect people in unique ways to the region’s inspiring beauty,” said Mr. Sullivan.

Merit E. Janow of West Park, Ulster County, and NYC—Scenic Hudson Board of Directors
A professor and director of the International Finance and Economic Policy Program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Ms. Janow teaches graduate classes in international economic law and trade policy at SIPA and courses in international trade law and comparative antitrust law at Columbia Law School. She has served as the first female member of the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body and is the author of several books and numerous research articles.

During the last decade, Ms. Janow has served on the boards of several corporations and nonprofits. She recently was made a charter member of the International Advisory Council of the China Investment Corporation, China’s sovereign wealth fund. From 1997 to 2000, she served as the executive director of the first international antitrust advisory committee to the attorney general and assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice. Ms. Janow’s professional experience includes serving as deputy assistant U.S. trade representative. A former member of a U.S. think tank in which her specialty was international trade policy, she lived for 15 years in Japan. Her law degree is from Columbia Law School, and her bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies is from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She and her husband, Peter Young, reside in New York City and West Park, Ulster County.

“Merit Janow has a strong connection with the Hudson River and enthusiasm for Scenic Hudson’s mission of saving land and creating public parks. Her experience as an educator and her deep understanding of other cultures will help us in outreach to engage more people in experiencing and appreciating the valley’s unique resources. Her understanding of investments and business issues will also help Scenic Hudson raise awareness of how land preservation and parks powerfully contribute to economic prosperity,” said Mr. Sullivan.

David K.A. Mordecai of Garrison, Putnam County, and NYC—Scenic Hudson Board of Directors
A senior advisor at the economic consulting firm Compass Lexecon, Dr. Mordecai focuses on corporate governance, damages, public policy, risk management, securities and valuation. He is the founder of Risk Economics Limited, a firm specializing in the development and implementation of structured credit arbitrage and asset liability management solutions.

Dr. Mordecai has served as an advisor to the Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund, the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission, and the International Organization of Securities Commissions as well as the World Economic Forum, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Office of the Directorate of National Intelligence. A former member of the Investment Advisory Committee of the New York Mercantile Exchange, he is an active member of several economics organizations and was founding editor in chief of The Journal of Risk Finance. He earned his doctorate in financial economics from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He holds an M.B.A. in finance from the NYU Stern School of Business.

With his wife, Samantha Kappagoda, Dr. Mordecai resides in New York City and Garrison, Putnam County. He serves on the boards of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust and Hudsonia.

“The combination of David Mordecai’s commitment to land preservation and deep understanding of economics and business operations will serve Scenic Hudson well. His experience in saving land for community benefit in the Hudson Highlands is important as Scenic Hudson has a major campaign underway to preserve 65,000 acres up and down the Hudson—our effort with allies to Save the Land That Matters Most,” said Mr. Sullivan.

William M. Evarts, Jr. of Garrison, Putnam County, and NYC—Scenic Hudson Land Trust Board of Directors
Mr. Evarts is a retired partner with the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. During his distinguished legal career, he focused on mergers and acquisitions, public and private financing, and matters involving the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, he resides with his wife, Helen, in Garrison, Putnam County, and New York City. A longtime champion of the valley, its beauty and history, Mr. Evarts has been an avid hiker. He has served as a board member of the Trust for Public Land and the National Audubon Society. Active for many years in efforts to preserve land for public enjoyment in the Hudson Highlands, recently he and Mrs. Evarts donated a portion of their property in Garrison to be added to Hudson Highlands State Park.

His current board affiliations include serving as a trustee emeritus of the New York State board of The Nature Conservancy and as a board member with the Hudson Highlands Land Trust. Mr. Evarts served previously as a Scenic Hudson Land Trust board member and in accordance with a term-limit policy rotated off the board before being eligible to serve again. He also has served as a member of Scenic Hudson’s Board of Directors.

“Bill Evarts brings equal measures of intelligence and passion to Scenic Hudson. He is concerned about sprawling development and seeking a balance between growth and land preservation to safeguard the region’s scenic beauty. He will be an enormous asset to Scenic Hudson as we work to steer future development into the valley’s city and town centers, conserving the forests and fields surrounding them,” said Mr. Sullivan.

Wheelock Whitney III of Rhinebeck, Dutchess County—Scenic Hudson Land Trust Board of Directors
An art historian, fine art dealer and collector, Mr. Whitney is the author of Gericault in Italy (Yale University Press, 1997), a meticulous study of a transformative year in the career of the important early 19th-century French artist. In 2003 Mr. Whitney made a promised gift of 56 notable 19th-century European paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mr. Whitney, a resident of Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, served for nine years as a member of the Scenic Hudson Board of Directors before moving overseas in 2003. During his tenure on the board, he was particularly involved in Scenic Hudson’s opposition to the St. Lawrence Cement plant proposed for Columbia County. He also was a staunch advocate for a safe and effective cleanup of PCBs in the Hudson River, a cause Scenic Hudson has pursued for more than two decades.

“An art historian and writer with far-reaching experience, Lock Whitney has as a strong interest in historic preservation and ecological restoration. A passionate advocate for the valley’s scenic grandeur, he also brings to our board an interest in enhancing our work to protect working farms and enhance agriculture’s contribution to the regional economy,” said Mr. Sullivan.

About Scenic Hudson

Scenic Hudson works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors.  A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement.  Today with more than 20,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley’s inspiring beauty and natural resources.  www.scenichudson.org.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, December 28th, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
| | 19 Comments »

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Hooded mergansers on Lake Gleneida

December
22

There was a mess of hooded mergansers on Lake Gleneida in Carmel this morning, diving for what I’m assuming were fish on the Route 52 side of the lake. You can read more about them here.

merg1

merg2jpg

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

A book about Cronin

December
22

John Cronin, former Riverkeeper, current head of the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries and longtime Hudson River advocate, is marking 35 years in protecting the Hudson. In light of that, a host of others, such as Pete Seeger and The New Yorker writer Alec Wilkinson, weigh in on Cronin’s work in “A River’s Pleasure.” The book is a collection of essays on what Cronin’s accomplished and what it’s meant for the river. book

My colleague Greg Clary mentioned the book in his column last week.

You can read an announcement from Pace University about the book after the break. Read more of this entry »

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 at 11:48 am |
| | 183 Comments »

Chickadees and cold

December
21

Food means warmth during the winter and in an effort to limit the amount of calories they burn during cold nights, black-capped chickadees can lower their body temperature.

“In addition to increasing their food intake, Black-capped Chickadees have another trick for surviving the winter: they can lower their body temperatures by up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit at night to save energy. This drop in body temperature is a result of the birds’ ability to decrease their metabolic rates. The fewer calories that are burned, the less energy that is created. Less energy means a lower body temperature. Black-capped Chickadees do not drop their body temperatures every night, though. This survival technique is usually saved for the most extreme cold weather fronts.”

chickadee1They are also relatively easy birds to entice into taking seed from your hand. I’ve tried it on occasion and, if your patient enough, one of the little birds will land on your hand to grab a sunflower seed.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, December 21st, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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Looking for a cause?

December
18

If you are, how about ruffed grouse and their colleague, the American woodcock? The Ruffed Grouse Society is holding its fourth annual New York City fundraiser dinner next month, which is described as “what may very well be the most significant event of  the year.”

It’s part of the society’s effort to raise money for conservation and management of the birds and their habitats — young forests. Such land also supports many species of songbirds.

As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology points out about ruffed grouse:

Eastern populations are likely to decline as deciduous forests mature and are fragmented by rural and suburban development.

Here’s what the Cornell folks say about the woodcock:

May be decreasing in some areas as shrubby areas revert to forest.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, December 18th, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
| | 35 Comments »

Seeger’s birthday DVD

December
17

Back in May, Pete Seeger and a few musicians gathered in Madison Square Garden to celebrate Seeger’s 90th birthday. That event was a fundraiser for the environmental organization  Clearwater, which Seeger founded. Likewise, a two-DVD set of that celebration is now being sold to also benefit Clearwater.

“Over 40 renowned musical artists performed at the concert, including Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Matthews, putting their own spin on songs written or inspired by the legendary folk icon and making this once-in-a-lifetime gathering of multi-generational stars truly a remarkable birthday party.”

Information about ordering the DVD is here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, December 17th, 2009 at 11:33 am |
| | 1,610 Comments »

Bat numbers plummeting, DEC says

December
16

The mysterious white-nose syndrome that has been afflicting hibernating bats for several years has decimated some populations of the winged mammal by 90 percent, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said today.

Surveying 23 caves at the epicenter of the bat die-off in early 2009, researchers found an alarming decline 91 percent on average — in the number of hibernating bats. The study included 18 caves in eastern New York, four in western Massachusetts and one in Vermont.

“These steep declines are alarming and disheartening,” Commissioner Grannis said. “Researchers from around the country are focusing on the bat die-off and DEC will continue to work with a wide range of partners to try to get to the heart of the problem.”

White-nose is named for the smudges of fungus on the noses and wings of hibernating bats. The Associated Press reported today that the syndrome  “is estimated to have killed more than a million bats in nine states since it was first noticed in a cluster of caves in upstate New York in 2006.”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
| | 258 Comments »

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This crow’s got no juice

December
15

I spotted this crow and what I’m calling a Cooper’s hawk sitting in tree near the Hudson River. The crow kept cawing and cawing and cawing, trying, I figured, to call in some other crows to mob the hawk. Crows tend to gang up on birds of prey, be it hawks or owls, in an effort to drive the perceived danger from their territory.

“Crows chase hawks and owls for the same reason that mockingbirds chase crows: to purge their territory of a potential predator. Crows especially hate Great Horned Owls, their main predator, and take particular delight in harassing these hapless raptors as they nap during the day, often calling in friends to participate in the chase. The few predators that crows, especially fledglings, might face (besides unfriendly humans) are raptors. Adult crows often participate in a behavior known as mobbing, in which they drive the threatening bird out by chasing it en masse. This may also be a means of demonstrating to young crows “this is what trouble looks like.””

Eventually, the crow gave up and flew away. If you look closely at the photo, you can see the hawk’s right foot dangling and not grasping his perch. That made me wonder if he was injured.

Here’s some information on Cooper’s hawks and frequently-asked crow questions.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009 at 11:56 am |
| | 4 Comments »

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About this blog
The Nature of Things provides a chance to talk about the wild denizens that share the Lower Hudson Valley with us and the natural settings that make this place home for everyone. From Long Island Sound to the Hudson River to the Great Swamp and beyond, almost anything related to the environment is fair game in this blog.

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About the authors
SBenischekJournal News staff writer Greg Clary writes Earth Watch, reporting on environmental issues in the lower Hudson region. Clary has been a reporter, editor and columnist at the Journal News since 1988 and has covered police and courts, transportation, municipal government, development and the environment in the Lower Hudson Valley, among other topics.
Laura IncalcaterraLaura Incalcaterra covers the environment, open space and zoning and planning issues for The Journal News. A Boston College graduate, Laura grew up in Rockland, attended East Ramapo schools and has worked for The Journal News since 1993. Laura has written features and covered North Rockland, crime, government and a host of other issues.
SBenischekMike Risinit covers Patterson and Kent in Putnam County, as well as environmental topics touching on the Hudson River and the Great Swamp. Risinit has been a reporter at The Journal News since 1998.
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